Prison or Church?

There’s been some major hullaballoo over Bay Minette, Alabama’s decision to allow offenders to either go to prison or, since there’s so much crowding, to instead go to a year of weekly Sunday Church Services. This is, of course, deserving of an outcry, but it’s not really that different from what the justice system has been doing for a long time.

Many states require people to attend AA, which is a religious organization, and will not allow secular versions to be used. There was a prison in South Carolina that wouldn’t let prisoners have any book except for the Bible.  When your choice is extreme pain or being forced to have religion shoved down your throat, it’s not really a choice at all.  It is basically extortion — you go to church OR ELSE.

This is clearly a grotesque violation of separation of church and state, but it’s also just really dumb. If you don’t have the room for them in prison, why not come up with something actually useful that they could do — like community service or getting counseling or education.  Or let’s just stop putting people in jail for non-violent or victimless crimes.  Does someone seriously believe that sitting in church makes someone a better person, regardless of the beliefs of the person involved?

I guess churches are so dwindling in membership that any new face is a good face.

Prison or Church?